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South Carolina woman’s arrest brings back recording debate

In a recent blog post, we touched upon the importance that a police officer’s video recording plays in the courtroom. However, it is crucial to remember that cops are not the only ones that can record everything in a crime scene. An establishment might have some security footage in the event of a robbery and some traffic lights have cameras implanted upon them to document any traffic violations.

One of the more often debated methods of legitimate evidence is if the accused or a bystander can record the video. Many citizens try to record the arrest in order to bolster their defenses or demonstrate poor behavior of the local police. A recent arrest in Rock Hill has brought the right to record law enforcement back into the spotlight in South Carolina, so it is imperative that you know how the law currently stands on this matter.

Two different accounts

While at a QuikTrip in Rock Hill, the police arrested a 53-year-old video game developer with charges of officer assault while resisting arrest and hindering their investigation. Prior to this, the police told her to back off after they caught her recording two arrests on the property. The woman’s case is garnering significant media attention due to her injuries from the officer and the two conflicting stories of the incident.

The police claim that the woman threw a cold drink in one of their faces and struck the officer with her fist. She apparently punched the officer in the head twice and kicked him once. The officer then used physical force to put the woman on the ground and place her in handcuffs. While the dash cam footage was not usable since the officer’s blue lights were not on, they claim to have evidence from QuikTrip’s camera footage and an officer’s body-cam.

However, QuikTrip also allowed the woman’s husband to witness the security footage as well. The husband claims that the woman did walk away after the officer warned her, but continued to record in selfie mode. He states that the officer tackled her like a football player, smashed the camera out of her hand and slammed her into the ground and that she did not hit him in the process. The woman suffers from five broken teeth, a dislocated shoulder, bruised hip, and a skull fracture from the incident.

An unsure stance

Given the two completely different stories of how this arrest went down, the available recordings might be crucial towards determine which side is correct. It also demonstrates the importance of stressing one’s rights when it comes to recording police activity. While it is not technically illegal to record police activity on your smartphone in South Carolina, the officers can argue that doing so will interfere with their activities. What they consider as “interference” can be vague, as there is not an established distance for where you can record before it is seen as a distraction.

Despite frequent discussion about the issue, the right to record the police is still not clear. You can still tell the officer you have the right to record them if they try to take your phone away or ask you to put it down. Regardless, officers should not use excessive force if you choose to exercise your right in documenting their actions on video. Anyone who feels their recording rights have been violated can contact a South Carolina criminal defense attorney to demonstrate the officer’s mistakes in the courtroom.

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William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law
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William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law